Whether they’ve been facing the Kansas City Wizards or Sporting Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium, CommunityAmerica Ballpark or Sporting Park, it hasn’t made much of a difference to the San Jose Earthquakes.
The result has remained maddeningly consistent: a loss.
The Quakes’ string of futility in Kansas City -- both the Kansas and Missouri versions -- reached nine straight defeats with a 1-0 loss to Sporting KC on Saturday night. San Jose have been shut out in six of those nine games, a streak that extends back nearly a full decade. The Quakes’ last victory at Kansas City took place on Aug. 14, 2004, and with the teams only meeting once per season, San Jose could have a long wait for another shot at knocking off the 2013 MLS Cup winners on their home pitch.
“I think it’s just two hard-fought teams banging against each other,” said Quakes defender Clarence Goodson, who made his season debut after missing three games in all competitions due to a right calf strain. “And both teams’ home parks are difficult places to play. Both teams like to step high at home, and it’s difficult.”
For San Jose coach Mark Watson, the difference might have had less to do with the specific location and more to do with the respective performances.
“I thought Kansas City were a bit better on the night,” Watson said. “It’s tough to win on the road. The biggest thing is, teams come at you with such energy and such aggression.”
The Quakes didn't summon enough of those items to overcome a Sporting KC side pushed into a bit of a corner by an 0-1-1 league start.
The visitors were saved twice by the post on the same 18th-minute sequence, with Sal Zizzo and Ike Opara both banging their shots off the woodwork. San Jose could not dodge another bullet in the 56th, however, when Steven Lenhart swung his right arm at the ball in the middle of a thicket of players in San Jose’s penalty area. Referee Ricardo Salazar quickly awarded the penalty.
Perhaps no MLS goalkeeper was better prepared to face a spot kick than San Jose’s Jon Busch, who got his hands on three of six attempts from Toluca in the Mexican side’s 5-4 win on penalty kicks Wednesday in CCL play. But Busch caught no part of Dom Dwyer’s attempt, which scooted past easily after Busch’s dive in the opposite direction.
It was tough to tell on replays whether Lenhart’s swipe had connected with the ball, and Goodson’s intense reaction -- which earned him a yellow card for dissent -- surely stoked the fires of internet conspiracy theorists. The U.S. international, who was in the thick of the scrum on the penalty-winning sequence, shot down those ideas after the match.
“It was a handball,” Goodson told reporters. “It was definitely a handball. What I was upset about was, the previous play [Sporting KC defender Aurelien] Collin was grabbing me and pulling me away from the ball. I said, ‘Ref, let’s watch this on the next play.’ He said, ‘No problem, I’ll watch it. On the play, he just about has me in a headlock, and they end up getting a penalty. So that’s what I was upset about.”
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In the meantime, the Quakes -- still missing several potential starters, and hoping to add new winger Yannick Djalo as soon as his visa is processed -- can rest up and enjoy a regular work week after the added burden of CCL play to start the season.
“I think it’s going to be great to have a full week of training,” Goodson said. “We’ve had a lot of guys out, we’ll get a lot of guys back. And even if we don’t, coach will have a full week of training with the guys who are playing together. ... Having a full week of training makes a world of difference.”
As long as it’s not leading up to a game in Kansas City, that is.